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All eyes on Uhuru and courts to resolve Nairobi leadership crisis

By Standard Team | December 12th 2019 at 12:00:00 GMT +0300

Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko at a Milimani court during his bail and bond ruling. [George Njunge/Standard]

Focus now shifts to President Uhuru Kenyatta and the constitutional court after Nairobi County Governor Mike Sonko was barred from office.

Yesterday, Chief Magistrate Douglas Ogoti ordered Sonko, who is facing a Sh380 million graft case, to stay away from office. The directive triggered a leadership crisis at City Hall, given Sonko does not have a deputy to act as governor for the time he will be on trial.

Yesterday, County Assembly Speaker Beatrice Elachi told ward reps that they would have to wait for an advisory opinion from the office of the Attorney General to determine the next course of action.

Leadership vacuum

“Following the ruling of the court this morning and the speculation on the leadership vacuum in the county, the Assembly will proceed on the scheduled recess as we await an advisory and for a recall for a special sitting pursuant to provision of the standing orders should the need arise,” said Elachi.

Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja implored Uhuru to urgently convene the Summit - a meeting of the 47 governors that the president chairs and which is deputised by the deputy president, to seek a way out of the constitutional crisis facing Nairobi County.

“There’s a constitutional crisis in Nairobi now. The president should now take the leading role to help navigate the situation. In the prevailing circumstances, the county government is operating on autopilot,” said Sakaja.

"The president should convene the Summit urgently to discuss the options available in addressing the Nairobi matter even if the proposals will touch on amending the County Governments Act,” he said.

Sakaja announced that senators would seek an interpretation in court but will wait for the ruling of the Court of Appeal on two previous cases touching on Kiambu and Samburu governors.

The senator said that although tough bail conditions were imposed on Governors Ferdinand Waititu (Kiambu) and Moses Lenalkulal (Samburu) by Justice Grace Ngenye and Justice Mumbi Ngugi respectively, Nairobi's case is unique.

“These two counties have deputy governors. Nairobi has no DG. The senators will also be engaging the Council of Governors (CoG) through the chair, Governor Wycliffe Oparanya (Kakamega) on the matter,” he said.

Sakaja called on Sonko’s cabinet to continue discharging their duties as required in law.

The CoG had at the weekend sought an emergency Summit meeting with the president to address the leadership crisis in the capital city.

The president’s Jubilee Party, according to insiders, is also reported to be planning to seek an advisory from the courts.

Yesterday, former Jubilee vice chairperson and close ally of the president, David Murathe said Nairobi is the hub of the country’s economy and, therefore, the national government's involvement is crucial in resolving the crisis.

Murathe made reference to a proposal in the Building Bridges Initiative that seeks to abolish Nairobi County and replace it with a Metropolis City.

“The management of the city county is important. This is a conversation we must have now,” said the former Jubilee vice chairperson.

He also said that the Assembly speaker cannot assume the role of a governor as the law clearly states that their role is limited to 60 days in preparation for a by-election in the event of a vacancy in the offices of governor and deputy.

But some Jubilee party ward reps in Nairobi insist that there is no leadership vacuum in the county and that Sonko is still governor.

Jubilee Party Majority Leader at the Assembly, Charles Thuo, insisted that normal operations of the county would continue even as they sought a legal interpretation from the Judiciary on how to proceed.

“We will seek a legal interpretation after consulting the party. In the event that the governor also appoints a deputy then we will call for a special sitting to vet the name of the candidate,” said Thuo.

Opposition ward reps, however, called for an extension of the plenary sittings to seek legal interpretation on the matter. They also hinted a possible impeachment.

Special sitting

Minority Deputy Chief Whip Moses Ogeto confided to The Standard that the opposition allied-ward reps would be calling a special sitting to discuss the crisis.

“We will be pushing for a special sitting because as we currently stand the county is stuck and we cannot allow the county to continue operating this way,” said Ogeto.

Minority Chief Whip Peter Imwatok blamed the Jubilee party for the crisis, arguing that the party failed to compel Sonko to appoint a deputy following the departure of Polycarp Igathe in January last year.

[Reporting by Roselyne Obala, Moses Nyamori and Josphat Thiongo]

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